Yesterday, my husband came home from work carrying our mail. His first words were, “You got an infraction. You were speeding in a school zone in Federal Way. Your fine is $250.”
I felt like I had a piece of styrofoam stuck in my throat, and man, did it leave an aftertaste.
I read the infraction letter and it showed I was going 38 miles/hour in a 20 mile/hour zone. It’s not like I’m a speed maniac. I was just going the speed of traffic. I wasn’t even in a hurry to get anywhere – I had just come from a work retreat and had gotten permission from my boss to go home directly from the retreat rather than spend the last hour at the office. The sun was shining, and I was in a really good mood. I never drive in Federal Way so I was a bit unfamiliar with my surroundings, but I managed to get home without a GPS because I was paying extra attention to the landmarks and street names.
At least I thought I was paying attention. Apparently, not closely enough, because I managed to miss a school zone sign. And although the hours of enforcement were only from 2:15 PM to 3:45 PM and my infraction was clocked in at 3:42:13 PM, it was still clocked in within the hours of enforcement. Less than two minutes from the cut-off time, but still within the cut-off time.
I’ve gotten only one other speeding ticket before, and it was on the way to see the Lord of the Rings. I was driving a friend from out of town to see the movie and we were running late, so I was going 110 km/hour (this was in Canada) in an 80 km/hour zone. I was also a novice driver in British Columbia, which has a graduated licensing program, meaning I had to post a magnetized green N on the back of my car. At some point that N had been stolen and I didn’t bother replacing it but instead posted a handwritten “N” sign from my rear-view window. By the time I was pulled over for speeding, that sign had been completely faded by the sun, so it was just a blank piece of paper. So I was fined for that, too. Altogether, my ticket was about $250.
Funny how things kind of repeat themselves…not.
Anyone who’s ever had a ticket knows the feeling. It’s pretty upsetting. You’re paying ridiculous amounts of money for a stupid mistake that didn’t really even matter after the fact. It’s hard because it wasn’t expected, and for those of us who don’t have thousands of dollars to spare for emergency tickets like this, it’s a little scary, too. I couldn’t help but get upset with myself, and even after eating a home made chicken pizza, teaching, and watching a third of the second season of Game of Thrones with my husband, I was still pretty upset with myself. Even after I went to sleep and woke up this morning, after I got ready and went downstairs to eat my Kashi cereal, saw my infraction letter posted on our fridge with the photo of my yellow Xterra unwittingly driving its way into a $250 fine, I was still pretty upset with myself. And then I opened my scripture readings for the day and found this:
“Why do you recite my commandments and profess my covenant with your mouth? You hate discipline; you cast my words behind you! …When you do these things should I be silent? Do you think that I am like you? I accuse you, I lay out the matter before your eyes.”
Psalm 50:16-17, 21
I believe that God loves me and wants what is best for me, but there are times when what is best for me is not what is easy, lovely, or beautiful. Sometimes, what is best for me is a difficult, unexpected, scary, and straight-up ugly $250 infraction fine. Just like any good parent, God doesn’t just give me the things I like. He has to give the things I don’t like, too, because these are all needed if I am to become better than who I was yesterday, and tomorrow better than who I am today. Or in this case, who I was a few hours ago, when I was grumbling in frustration and fear over a fine that resulted in my own wrongdoing.
I’m not saying this stuff to praise and affirm our driving laws, or any laws for that matter. We need to be law-abiding citizens, without a doubt, but more importantly what I learned from this whole experience is that God wants us to look beyond legalism and be advocates of faith, humility and justice. I am being disciplined not just to be obedient to speed limits, but to be obedient, period. I am being disciplined not just to be gracious when accepting my infraction, but to be gracious in accepting and acknowledging that I am imperfect, susceptible to temptation, vulnerable to sin. I am being disciplined not just to be prompt in giving to the government what I owe in taxes and fines as a resident of this country, but to be quick to give to God what I owe in steadfast faith and humility as a citizen of heaven.
God loves me. He wants what is best for me. When I am blessed, I rejoice; when I am disciplined, I rejoice; for both blessing and discipline come from the same loving Hand, the same generous Father. And all things given to me from this Hand, this Father, are given to me for my greatest good. Even the ones that cost me $250.